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Courses prepare for worst scenario

Firefighters from area use weekend to train

POSTED: May 30, 2008 5:01 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Firefighters approach a burning propane tank while extinguishing the blaze during Sunday's Regional Training Weekend.

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The firefighters of Georgia were hard at work Sunday, training for dire circumstances when they may have to save themselves and others.

The Hall County Fire Services along with the Georgia Fire Academy held its very first Regional Training Weekend, which ended Sunday at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center.

The training weekend, which hosted firefighters from all over Georgia, involved classroom time and real life demonstrations of what being a firefighter is all about — saving lives and putting out fires.

The firefighters took shots at the Firefighter Safety and Survival course and the Pressurized Container Fires course, both of which were supervised and demonstrated by training officers from Hall County Fire Services.

For the safety and survival course, firefighters practiced "bailing out" techniques with a rope, hose and ladder. The process involves exiting a building via a small window and scaling an exterior wall.

Each firefighter also wore all his or her gear, which weighs about 50 pounds, said Skip Heflin, training officer for Hall County.

The bailing out techniques were practiced from windows ranging from 20 to 30 feet off the ground. Firefighters were attached to a belay, which served as a bungee in case they fell during the trial.

Attention to detail, timing and technique played a vital role in each drill.

"The first time you do it, it’s a little different, but the more you do it, the more you know," said Ted Jarrard, firefighter for Hall County.

The hose bail out involved a firefighter escaping a building through a window and sliding to safety down a fire hose. The hose is tied off to a railing. Without securing the hose, it would fall to the ground.

Jarrard said that leg strength and a controlled descent is key for this type of drill.

"It’s impossible if you use your hands only ... sliding down too fast is just another way to get hurt," Jarrard said.

"That one was pretty tough. You think you can just grab it with your hands, but that doesn’t happen," said John Moore of Hall County Fire Services.

Another drill involved firefighters — in full gear, including an oxygen tank — escaping through a 16-by-24 inch or 16-by-16 inch hole in a fiber rock.

Because the wall was fiber rock, firefighters had to cut the hole rather than punch through.

"You have to breathe out so there’s no air in your lungs, and then wiggle, and then take a breath, and then wiggle and breath back out," said Mack Palmer, firefighter for Habersham County.

For the Pressurized Container Fires course, a group of firefighters used a smooth board nozzle hose, which weighs about 62 pounds per 50-foot section, to put out a fire from a large pressurized tank.

The tank was pumped with gas and then ignited, causing it to sporadically shoot gas and large flames into the air.

Firefighters took their time approaching the tank while spraying it with the hose to cool it. As they got close enough, they used the pressure from the hose to cause the flames to shoot to the left, while a valve man turned off the gas.

The fuel for the drill was donated by Blossman Gas.

"Without the commitment and support from taxpayers and our fire chief, this would be impossible," Heflin said.

Regional training weekends are not mandated by the state, which makes holding them all the more important.

"If you put out fires, you have a dangerous job. That’s why we have weekends like this, to show them how to be as safe as possible while doing a dangerous job," said Scott Cagle, fire marshal of Hall County Fire Services.

Cagle and Heflin both oversaw the courses along with David Kimbrell and other fire officials. Heflin created the course with Josh Moreno, training officer for Hall County.



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